Posts Tagged ‘Tree of Life’

FriFeb201224

Review of Malick’s Tree of Life, filmed in Smithville

Back Stage

SASA MAJUMA

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?
The Tree of Life (2011) is one of the best films from last year. It is being shown at the Gaborone Film Society tonight at 7 pm atMaru-a-PulaSchool in the A/V Centre. It is by the great director Terrence Malick who only makes about one film every decade.

He is famous for Badlands(1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (2005). With The Tree of Life his approach has changed: he currently has four new films in production.
 
At the 64th Cannes International Film Festival The Tree of Life swept the Palme D’Or (but not without boos, jeers and great applause from a divided public). The line that divides reactions to this film is strong for it begins with the cosmos, the Supreme Being, the meaning of life, birth and death, and how life may be lived.

The catcalls come from viewers who want modern entertainment, not Great Issues. Nick Pinkerton writing in The Village Voice says of Malick that, He’s one of the few American filmmakers operating on the multiplex scale who makes movies feel like undiscovered country.

In Genesis, 3:22-24 in the Garden of Eden the tree of life has fruits that give eternal life. In science the image is used to represent the evolutionary divergence of all living creatures.

In Kabalism the spheres of life or the 10 attributes of the infinite belong to the tree of life. This film spends considerable time probing images of the past. From the Hubble telescope, the birth of the universe is observed. At one point the earth belonged to the dinosaurs (an injured plesiosaur contemplates his wounding), then they were extinct.

“I made him feel shame …how did I lose you?  Mother was I false to you? …. Where were you? Who are we to you? 
  From the Red Centre, to the nebulae of outer space, from eruptions, to the feeding frenzy of circling hammerheads and Saturn’s rings, We cry to you, my soul, my son”. 

Light of my life I search for you. At the start and in conclusion the audience can see only a flickering flame Ð is this the beginning and end of our universe?

The creation leads us to a family inWaco,Texas, in the 1950s Ð yes, the same town of the famous massacre, but there is no link established between it and this movie. It was actually filmed in Smithville, nearAustin,Texas.

A gentle, warm, loving Mother O’Brien (acted by Jessica Chastain, inGaboronepreviously in The Help in Texas Killing Fields, The Debt and Wilde Salome) is the lodestone for her three sons. Her path is the opposite of her husband’s. “Love everyone. Love every leaf, every ray of light,” she tells her sons.

The demanding, harsh and judgemental father O’Brien (played by Brad Pitt) imparts survival lessons that are intended to promote individualism, competition, and Looking Out For No. 1. Pass the butter please, Sir.  

O’Brien disciplines his sons like the family was an ancient military camp and the offspring the uncouth foot soldiers. 

They must learn how to avoid being bullied, to fight back, and to master the art of self-defence, to face DDT spray without flinching. Do you love your father? Yes, Sir. His message to his sons is one of loyalty and obedience coloured by cunning. The world lives by trickery … if you want to succeed, you can’t be too good.

As they grow a little older, Number One, Jack (played by Hunter McCracken) becomes a bully with his two younger brothers R L and Steve (Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan). He also articulates his rebellion and his hostility against his father’s repressive regime.

“You can hit me if you want.” O’Brien tells Jack, I want you to grow up strong, be your own boss. Jack becomes the axis of the film. He even tries to talk to God. Can we hear the answers?

O’Brien has 25 patents, a thankless job, that comes to an end, loves classical music, but is a failed musician. His sense of failure permeates the film. He wants more for his sons. To accompany its unfamiliar images The Tree of Life is filled by some of the best In music by Bach, Couperin, Mozart, Mahler, Smetana, Gorecki, Respighi, Holst and others.

To find the young actors, Laramie Eppler, Tye Sheridan and Hunter McCracken, who play the three preadolescent brothers, months were spent searching and 10,000c non-professional applicants interviewed. The results are a credit to this prolonged search.

Sean Penn gives a taut portrayal of the troubled first son, Jack, now an adult, who struggles to find the best in his harsh, disciplinarian father. As an actor he somehow expected more. He is quoted as saying: I didn’t at all find on the screen the emotion of the script, which is the most magnificent one that I’ve ever read.

A clearer and more conventional narrative would have helped the film without, in my opinion, lessening its beauty and its impact. Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing there and what I was supposed to add in that context! What’s more, Terry himself never managed to explain it to me clearly.

The adult Jack keeps looking back on his past. One of his younger brothers has died. He is working as an architect in a glass skyscraper in downtownHouston,Texas(little is really explained about who he has become, as it is his remembered past that occupies the screen).

Still, this is a film about mysteries, well worth watching and debating.  It is a poetic movie, but you don’t have to be a poet or a true believer to watch it.

Thus may be The Tree of Life, but in this resurrection it is the American suburb of half a century ago with its green lawns, cars to wash, and sibling rivalry to be transcended. It is a coming-of-age story with a difference. 

The Tree of Life is two hours and 13 minutes long. It is rated 12+. The director is Terrence Malick who also wrote the script. The cinematographer is Emmanuel Lubezk. The editor is Mark Yosikawa. The music is both by and arranged by Alexandre Desplat. 
sasa_majuma@yahoo.co.uk

(our bed and breakfast, the Katy House is 10 blocks from the home used in Tree of Life. Sallie Blalock)

 


ThuAug20114

Chitlin Circuit Blues Review in Smithville, TX

Sonny Rhodes with special guests

Jeff Haney

Peterson Brothers

Ruby Jane

Greg Izor

“Music Has the Power to Liberate and Bridge All Gaps”

Playing Saturday, August 13, 2011

7 PM- 1 AM

Tickets are $10.00

Location is Big Daddy’s Roadhouse

242 Hwy 95 South

Smithville, Texas 78957

phone: 512 237-1098

We still have a few rooms available at our Katy House Bed and Breakfast.

Smithville is the hometown for the movies “Hope Floats” “Tree of Life,”  “Doonby” and many more!


TueMay201124

Smithville, TX is proud of “Tree of Life”

Here is a wonderful review of  “Tree of Life.”  Our little town, Smithville  has had movies filmed here before.  The first was “Hope Floats.”  Reading the review below  makes me want to see the movie at least twice.  And I wish we didn’t have to wait till June 3rd.  We had the three boys that played the three brothers in movie,  and their families,  stay with us at our Bed and Breakfast last September when they came to town again.  For more info. on Smithville visit the Chamber page at http://www.smithvilletx.org/   and visit our web page at http://www.katyhouse.com

This review is from the web site: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/49760

Nordling here.

Audiences who engage with Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE may find that it will be impossible to watch without bringing their own personal history, their emotional baggage, their own family experiences with them to the film.  The film’s considerable power comes from Malick’s ability to go to a universal place and yet still make the film seem very personal and relevant to each individual who sees it.  It is possible to view the film empirically.  Just from the one viewing that I had, I feel it is a masterwork, but it resonates with me with such force that I find myself unable to think about the film without it being filtered by my own life experiences.  I do not think I will be the only one who feels that way about this film.

THE TREE OF LIFE is absolutely not for everyone.  It’s quiet, contemplative, and it rewards patience and understanding.  Many moviegoers will flat out hate it – they will hate Malick’s refusal to tell his story with a conventional narrative; they will hate Malick’s flights-of-fancy that will come off to some as incredibly indulgent; they will hate the fact that Malick devotes most of the film to a portrait of a family in small-town 1950s Texas and think that it is not a subject deserving of so much time and attention. The criticisms put against this film – it’s indulgent, pretentious, too long – could be valid for a moviegoer unused to working with a film the way Malick requires.  The film is as full and as long as Malick needs it to be; critics of the length remind me of AMADEUS’s Mozart asking which notes he should take out of his opera.  He has a journey in mind, and he will not skip any step, because as so many have said before, the point isn’t about where you arrive but how you got there.  But Malick tells this story the only way he can, and how audiences respond to it is very much what the movie is about, as opposed to any kind of linear narrative path.

We begin with a Bible verse of Job 38: 4, 7 – “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”  But the film doesn’t approach religion from a strictly Christian perspective (although its influence on Malick is clear).  The film’s theme is specified in the opening dialogue from Mrs. O’Brien – “There are two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow.”  Nature, we are told, is selfish and full of itself.  Grace is love, and the giving of oneself to a higher calling or power.  From there we are taken on a journey through the very foundations of the universe, and into the inner workings of the human heart.  Malick’s film suggests that the difference is miniscule.

Each scene in THE TREE OF LIFE doesn’t play out in a traditional narrative sense – we are either in someone’s inner imaginings, or we are dropped into a remembrance without any pretense.  However, the film is not without plot.  Instead of laying out each scene with a narrative precision, the film puts us in the emotional perspective of the character.  This film isn’t so much watched as it is lived through.  Brad Pitt plays domineering but loving Mr. O’Brien, who is a strict taskmaster to his children and seems unable to express into words his deep, stirring inner feelings.  On the other end of the spectrum is Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) who isn’t so much a character as she is an ideal of motherhood.   Jack (Hunter McCracken as a child, Sean Pennas an adult) is very much the product of these two powerful figures in his life.  The film is bookended by modern day sequences in Houston – and I’ve never seen Houston look as beautiful as how Emmanuel Lubezki shoots it here, all glass and sunlight – as Jack remembers his conflicted youth, and the loss of his brother.  In the film’s opening, Mrs. O’Brien receives a letter, a telegram that shatters the O’Briens – the death of their child R.L. (Laramie Eppler, who looks uncannily like Pitt) when he is 19.  It is assumed, because of the time and the manner of the telegram that he dies in Vietnam, but I think Malick deliberately left this vague, especially in today’s present circumstances.  It doesn’t matter how he died – what matters is that his death sends the family into a deep questioning of their faith and why it happened.  Mrs. O’Brien, in particular, takes R.L.’s death hard, asking God why, and receiving little comfort.  

It’s in this part of the film that Malick takes us into the depths of Creation and into the beginnings of life on Earth.  Audiences may struggle with the meaning behind it, but that’s the point – when we are given difficult moments in our lives, we question why, and our thoughts may turn to the very foundations of the universe to find our answer.  This 20-minute sequence takes us from the creation of everything to the pool of water where the first life takes shape, to dinosaurs on the beach and in a forest, and in all of this we are shown the aspects of Mrs. O’Brien’s argument of nature and grace.  Huge in scope, Malick himself seems to search for the truth as much as Mrs. O’Brien.  Nature can be cruel, as demonstrated in a sequence where two dinosaurs meet in a forest, one dinosaur putting his heel to the other, fallen dinosaur’s head, almost teasing, much like a brother teases his younger. 

From these origins of the world we go to Waco, Texas, and a loving couple, as they fall in love and have children.  The three O’Brien boys, Jack, R.L., and Steve (Tye Sheridan), behave as children do – they play, they do their father’s bidding, they grow.  R.L., especially, seems a sensitive youth, into music (in one of my favorite scenes of the film R.L. sits on the porch outside playing guitar as his father quietly accompanies him on the piano).  The youngest, Steve, is quiet and unassuming.  But it is Jack, the oldest, who is the most tempestuous, questioning his father’s authority and his own place in the world.  The film portrays childhood wonderfully and truthfully – never has a film captured quite so well what it is like to be a young boy with the infinite summer ahead of him.  In the meantime, Mr. O’Brien is struggling; feeling rejected by his peers and neighbors, he is increasingly tougher on his children as they grow older.  In his rebellious nature, Jack starts to push back, and this becomes the central conflict of the film.  Will Jack go the way of nature, or of grace?  Is he his father’s son, or his mother’s, or both?

Brad Pitt is amazing in his performance.  It is a simplification to say that he’s a simple abusive father.  For Mr. O’Brien, his children are his hope to achieve in ways that he has not, and he truly loves them.  At the same time, every moment of anger pushes them further and further away, and he is incapable of articulating the storm of emotion within him.  Jessica Chastain is terrific as well, although as I said, her character is a very broad portrait of motherhood as opposed to anything specific.  She seems to live to serve her husband, and only when he is gone away on a trip that she comes to life with the children, playing and enjoying life.  Young Hunter McCracken’s Jack doesn’t feel like a performance – it feels like a life.  His curiosity, his imagination, and his love for his family all shine through.  It is an entirely genuine performance.  Sean Penn isn’t in it much, but his performance is essential as a touchstone to the audience, especially in the film’s ending, which will either send filmgoers out either enraptured or just confused.  I felt that the ending was Malick’s way of making peace with loss, and found it very effective.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s camerawork is transcendent.  It’s one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen.  The way he captures the light, the angles, and the playful movement – it’s cinematography on a level that seems larger than any accolades that could be thrown at it.  Alexandre Desplat’s score is triumphant, and as the focus of the film shifts from cosmic to intimate in a breath’s time, his music accentuates the shift and stays cohesive.  The effects work of the Creation sequence is immaculate – Douglas Trumbull of 2001 and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND was a consultant on the visual effects, and it shows.  There is a real weight to each vision, and as we go from the very foundations of the universe to present day Texas, it feels effortless.

But it is Terrence Malick, the master filmmaker, who creates something truly amazing with THE TREE OF LIFE.  The film is a prayer, without being any specific religion (although the underpinnings seem decidedly Christian).  The film’s portrayals of spirituality and our relationship to the universe and each other are very universal, and yet, I felt the film was intensely specific to my own life.  I imagine my experience with THE TREE OF LIFE will not be unique.  The film is both epic and intimate, both grandiose and personal, and challenging to the extreme.  There will be those who will not be open to what the film offers.  Because the film refuses to follow a traditional narrative, because the film wears its emotions on its sleeve, and because of the length, if you are not a diehard film fan, willing to take risks, I cannot recommend this film.  As for me, I’ve seen it once, and I know I’ll be seeing it again.  This summer will be full of action films, and superhero films, big budget effects extravaganzas that will promise an experience never seen before.  But if any come close to what Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE does, then they may have something to brag about.  It is a difficult film, an ambitious film, and not for the casual filmgoer.  THE TREE OF LIFE, for any true film fan, must be seen on the biggest screen that can be found.  It is a celebration of life, hope, family, and a singular, transformative film experience.

Nordling, out.


WedJul201014

Smithville, TX is a busy little town!

The production crew filming “Doonby”, with John Schneider, Ernie Hudson, Will Wallace, and Robert Davi,  has now left Smithville.  But, word is, two more smaller production crews are coming soon. You can become a “fan” of Doonby and the Smithville Film and Music Commision,  on Facebook.com  We still are waiting for “The Tree of Life”, with Brad Pitt,  to open. I think it’s getting close to being in the theaters! I will keep you posted if we hear a date.

Smithville has a busy weekend coming up. The new Playhouse Smithville will have its opening and first performance on Friday, July 23rd, 2010.  The opening show is  “LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.”  The show will run from July 23 to August 7, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30.  Tickets are $10.00 and can be purchased at www.playhousesmithville.com.  Seating is limited and tickets are selling fast.

Bruce and I already have our season tickets.  Playhouse Smithville,  110 Main Street,  Smithville, TX 78957,  512-360-7397  playhousesmithville@yahoo.com

On Saturday, July 24th, the Smithville Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring Casino Night.  It’s a really fun night. Here is more infor on this annual event:

Smithville’s “Little Las Vegas”Saturday, July 24, 2010 at 7:00 PM Smithville Recreation CenterThe gambling action at Casino Night is hotter than the July temperatures outside as Smithville’s Recreation Center is transformed into a Vegas-style venue. Featuring such games as blackjack, Texas Hold Em, roulette, craps, and the ever-popular slot machines, it’s a sure bet that there’s no more exciting fundraiser around!  Always on the fourth Saturday in July, it’s a can’t miss event.Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the Italian buffet and some fun, before the action starts at 7 p.m.Tickets are $25 each prior to the event (purchased through the Chamber of Commerce) and $30 at the door. Ticketholders must be at least 21 years of age to be admitted. Price includes admission to gaming floor, a trip through the Italian dinner buffet, adult beverages, and $10,000 worth of chips. At night’s end, turn those chips into chances at great prizes! Silent auction prizes are also available for bidding upon (to donate prizes, please call the Chamber).For more information, call the Chamber of Commerce at 512-237-2313.  And remember to save the date.  You can purchase tickets in advance below.

We hope to see you there!


SatAug200929

Texas Photo Festival is Sept 12 & 13th, in Smithville, TX

There are  fun times ahead, here in Downtown Smithville, Texas.  Sunday, September 13th will be a photographer’s dream come true. Smithville Film Commission is  sponsoring  the “Texas Photo Festival,”  Sept 12 and Texas Photo Festival13th, 2009. There will be sites set up on our historic Main Street on Sunday.  All you need to bring is your camera and you will have a ball. You will see where to stand to get that “perfect shot.”  The cost is free and I promise you will learn a lot and enjoy our town. Here is the web site for more information-   www.texasphotofestival.com

Call the Smithville Chamber at 512 237-2313 or the Katy House B&B at 512 237-4262 for additional infomation on our town. Smithville is the first town in Texas to be named Texas Film Friendly. It is the hometown of the movies, “Hope Floats,”   “Tree of Life,”  “Five Times Champion,”  and “artois the goat.”


WedMay20096

We Love Smithville, Texas

The Smithville Chamber Banquet showed a video where they interviewed locals on why they loved Smithville.  There are a lot of neat photos of the beautiful homes here in Smithville. Look closely and you will see my grandparents home, and our home.  Here is the link to see the video on Loving Smithville. Looking at the photos you can see why film makers see the town full of sites for their movies. We are looking forward to the release of “Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in the fall of 2009.